Onderstepoort fight draws in minister

Agriculture minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has been drawn into the fight between the board of Onderstepoort Biological Products (OBP), and the CEO it suspended in April, Dr Andile Dyasi.

- Advertisement -

Dr Dyasi is suing OBP and the minister, and at the start of September he brought an urgent application for an interdict against his disciplinary hearing. The precise nature of the charges against Dr Dyasi, and his counter charges, remains unknown. The minister would not elaborate on Dr Dyasi’s case against her, saying the matter was sub judice, but a statement said her department was “dismayed” with the OBP board’s “unilateral decision” to dismiss Dr Dyasi.

The statement said the minister had “on countless occasions written and spoken to the board imploring it to provide her with all the evidence of wrongdoing against Dr Dyasi, to no avail.”The statement added that “Only the minister can appoint and dismiss the CEO of the OBP.” While it’s been suggested the minister is protecting Dr Dyasi, the ministry says the OBP board’s failure to provide evidence had prevented her from acting against him.

But OBP acting non-executive chairperson Dave Mitchell said the board had acted within its rights. “The appropriate analogy here is the decision of the Eskom board to suspend former Eskom CEO Jacob Maroga. They were later vindicated, and we’re essentially following the same process,” he said.

- Advertisement -

Mitchell said some of the charges against Dr Dyasi concerned his personal behaviour, whereas others concerned aspects of governance. “There are elements of serious misconduct,” he said.A July statement by union Solidarity alleged that Dr Dyasi tampered with the findings of a review of the market-relatedness of employees’ salaries, “to the benefit of his and his management’s salaries and to the detriment of the salaries of the employees.”

Dr Dyasi’s application was not deemed urgent, but remains on the general roll of the Labour Court, scheduled to be heard in early October. While Dr Dyasi and his legal team arrived at the venue of the disciplinary hearing on 13 September, they apparently did not stay. The hearing proceeded, and at the time of going to print is due to conclude on 17 September.

Meanwhile, Dr Dyasi will remain an employee of OBP on full salary and benefits until the hearing and his own labour court case are resolved. The last annual published annual report (2008/09) indicates a Managing Director’s annual basic salary of R419 000, a cell phone allowance of R36 910, and a R66 220 allocation for travel and car hire.